Tag: Lakers Celtics Game 2

NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 2: Rajon Rondo's block from behind

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Before we move on to Game 3, let’s look back really quickly at one of the signature plays of Game 2: Rajon Rondo’s block from behind.

Two things to take away from this. First, Rondo’s recovery is amazingly quick. Just a fantastic play. Second, Ron Artest should have taken the three he had, not passed to Fisher. But he heard the voice of Phil Jackson in his head saying “stop shooting the corner three, Ron” and he hesitated, and that’s all it took.

NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: Paul Pierce talks trash to a fan. Alert the media.


Pierce_celebrates.jpgLet’s get the facts out of the way first:

With 1:12 left in Game 2 and the Celtics up by seven, Paul Pierce came over to help Kevin Garnett up off the ground and said:

We are not going back to L.A.

Here is the video, via Sports By Brooks, and Pierce is clearly saying it.

Some Lakers fans are taking offense at this. Some Celtics fans are taking this as a sign of the confidence of their team to take the whole thing. Both fan bases are delusional (which we knew going into this series).

So, in the heat of the moment, Paul Pierce talked trash. His team was about to even the NBA finals on the road, and he was pumped up and talking smack to a fan.

So what? Athletes stay stuff in the heat of an intense game all the time, things that are far worse. To fans, to refs, to each other. Pick up games at the Y have worse trash talk, let alone what gets said on the interior of an NFL line.

But, some microphone picked this up and it is a story. Look, the 2-3-2 NBA finals format punishes the road team something fierce. Winning three games in a row — even at home — against a quality opponent is a real long shot. The Lakers are going to win one of the games in Boston, at least. What, you think a Rondo triple-double and a Ray Allen three-point record are going to happen nightly?

Then the Celtics will have to win one more on the road. Probably a Game 7. And that’s what we all want to see anyway. Whatever Paul Pierce says during a game.

NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 2: Where did the Laker offense go wrong?


bryant_game2.pngAll things considered, the Lakers’ Game 2 offense was not a failure. Their free throw rate was off the charts, their offensive rebound rate was stellar, and the turnovers were completely manageable. It was L.A.’s drop-off combined with Boston’s improved offensive execution that tipped the balance, which makes assigning specific blame a bit tricky.

Sure, you can look at Ron Artest’s 1-for-10 night and say that he failed spectacularly or point out Derek Fisher’s weak defensive strategy against Ray Allen, but there was no singular force — not even the sweet-shooting Jesus Shuttlesworth — that earned Boston a Game 2 victory.

That leaves us all looking beyond the obvious, and in doing so likely attributing too much influence to minor factors. It’s not easy to diagnose a loss like this one for L.A. (at least in terms of their offense), but we can start small and work our way back up. However, maintaining an understanding that no individual element of the Lakers’ offense can be marked as the goat is crucial. As such, it was a combination of somewhat minor differences between Game 1 and 2 that gave the Celtics the opportunity to take a game at STAPLES.

For example, we can look to the Lakers’ execution on the pick-and-roll. The screen game is an essential element of any NBA offense (even the triangle), and L.A. was far more successful coming off screens in Game 1 than they were in Game 2. According to Synergy Sports, the Laker ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations scored 1.43 points per possession in Game 1 (scoring on 64.3% of such possessions), the model of efficiency.

In Game 2? Not only did the ball-handlers in pick-and-roll situations finish plays only about half as often, but L.A.’s ball-handlers only scored 0.75 points per possession. That’s a substantial difference, not only in the plays directly accounted for, but in the way those plays influenced the Celtics’ coverage of the pick-and-roll. Boston was able to negate the impact of L.A.’s ball-handlers coming off of screens with calculated pressure, rather than having to respond to the Laker guards’ success in those scenarios with a scrambling last line of defense.

Don’t underestimate the difference between the two, as when and how a defense elects to apply pressure matters a great deal. When the Celtics are dictating when they help on pick-and-rolls (or more importantly, who they help off of), they’re a defensive force. When Kobe Bryant, Jordan Farmar, and Shannon Brown are forcing Boston to adapt to their assertiveness, it’s a different game.